Home hunt in France: a medieval estate near Provence for $ 3 million


This 13-bedroom house, with a tower erected in the 11th century as a defense post for the Templar military order, is nestled among olive groves and truffle oaks just outside the medieval town of Uzès, in the south of France.

The 5,920 square foot stone house is anchored in an interior courtyard and surrounded by nearly 47 acres of landscaped gardens, meadows and trees, as well as a caretaker’s house, a heated swimming pool, a pool house, four closed garages and other outbuildings.

Over the years, the house has been used as a convent, American school and private home, said Patrick Poncet, CEO and co-founder of Poncet & Poncet Christie’s International Real Estate, which has the list. Its most recent renovations took place in the 1980s, including underfloor heating on the ground floor; some parts of the house require additional restoration work.

The cavernous rooms with vaulted stone ceilings form a U on the ground floor. Beyond the barrel-shaped entrance hall, the reception rooms offer panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and the river that runs along the southern edge of the property. To the left, the renovated dining room accommodates a table for 15. A stone fireplace controls one end of the living room and glass doors under an archway open onto the grounds. A covered terrace overlooks the river. The kitchen needs to be renovated, said Isabelle Clavie, senior international real estate consultant at Poncet & Poncet.

To the right of the entrance hall, a den, a billiard room and, on two steps, a small library overlook the interior courtyard. Terracotta tiles and stone slabs typical of French houses cover the floors.

A second tower has a spiral staircase leading upstairs. On the second level, which has wooden floors, the master bedroom has an en-suite bathroom with a bathtub. Each of the other seven large bedrooms has an en-suite shower room and sink, but shares the hallway bathrooms. An office and a linen room are also on the second floor. From the courtyard, a straight staircase also leads to the first floor.

Five more compact rooms on the third floor, once used by nuns, have a shower and sink. The toilets, which are shared, are located next to the hallway. The home’s dozens of bathrooms are in need of updating, Clavie said.

A modern sauna and shower occupy the Knight’s Tower. A stone staircase leads to the 59-foot by 20-foot heated swimming pool, where a covered pool pavilion, carved into a rock face, includes a kitchen and outdoor lounge. Away from the main house, the caretaker’s cottage has two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen, a bathroom and a private garden.

The property is just over a mile from Uzès, a medieval commune with narrow, circular streets, shops, restaurants, arcades, the first duchy of France and an annual truffle festival. Marseille and the Mediterranean coast of France are approximately 90 miles to the southeast, and the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region is just to the east. Uzès, although widely included in real estate listings for the Provence region, is actually in the administrative region of Occitanie, established in 2016 from the former regions of Languedoc-Roussillon (where this house is located) and Midi- Pyrenees.

International flights are available from Marseille Provence Airport, approximately 90 minutes away.

The French real estate market weathered the tumult of 2020, even as the economy fell into recession. In the fourth quarter, house prices rose 6.1% year-over-year, with existing home prices rising faster (+ 6.4%) than new home prices (+2, 8%), according to the National Institute for Statistical and Economic Studies.

On April 3, as a new wave of Covid-19 infections hit France, the country closed its doors for the third time. Travel was prohibited between regions, with the exception of buyers of primary residences. “This allows us to work almost normally,” said Poncet.

However, second homes represent an important part of the real estate portfolio in the south of France, particularly in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur and Occitanie, where Montpellier and Uzès are the most sought-after locations.

“The climate is mild, the towns and villages offer a very rich architectural heritage, culture in all its forms is omnipresent”, declared Mr. Poncet, notably with a theater festival in Avignon, dance in Montpellier, beaches and nightlife in Saint-Tropez, and the Cannes Film Festival.

Tim Swannie, director of Home Hunts, which specializes in luxury properties in France, Monaco and Switzerland, said his company’s sales fell about 20% in 2020 after a robust 2019, although the interest remained strong. “The south of France is generally not a booming real estate market,” he said. “Most homeowners see a gradual increase in the value of their property over time.”

When the first foreclosure was lifted last May, “it was like a roadblock opening its doors – the market was inundated with buyers, all looking to secure properties,” Swannie said. While buyers in Paris, Monaco and other European cities sought larger homes with more outdoor amenities, “properties were sold at asking prices, sometimes with multiple buyers bidding on, or sold before they were officially put on sale. the market, ”he added. Even homes that languished “were made with a compromise made by buyers willing to consider renovating and improving their homes.

With foreigners constrained by travel restrictions, domestic buyers have filled part of the void. But “foreign demand is increasing again for the next summer season, in line with the progress of vaccination in the world,” said Marie-Claire Sangouard, Managing Director of Engel & Völkers Côte d’Azur.

Laetitia Hodson, associate partner at Knight Frank in the international residential department, said that “the appetite for a second home in France is very, very high for a house in the country”, with “double the number of new customers and new inquiries. “

As of the start of 2021, “transactions are much closer to asking price,” Ms. Hodson said, and stocks are low. “Some sellers have decided not to sell but to keep their second home,” she added.

In Occitania, prices start at 450,000 euros ($ 540,000) for a small pied-à-terre to several million euros for an estate, Poncet said.

In Provence, a three- or four-bedroom village house with a small garden ranges from 650,000 euros to 1 million euros ($ 780,000 to $ 1.2 million). For a house with a garden and pool in a quiet neighborhood, prices start at 1.5 million euros ($ 1.8 million) and exceed 30 million euros ($ 36 million) for private properties. Mr. Swannie said.

Most buyers are looking for “character properties” such as “mas”, traditional Provencal stone farmhouses “with thick walls and small windows on the south side of the house,” Mr Swannie said.

Others prefer larger “Bastides”, often better situated, houses originally built for the nobles. “These houses are more symmetrical in terms of rooms and size,” he said, with bigger windows and better views.

Before the pandemic, around 60% of buyers in southern France were international, with the majority coming from Britain, Sweden and the United States, Ms Hodson said. 60% of buyers are now French, with foreign buyers coming from neighboring Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany.

Across France, non-resident buyers account for only around 2% of real estate transactions, said Amaury de Monclin, managing director and co-founder of Bluesky Finance, a French mortgage broker for international buyers. “The presence of international buyers is increasing dramatically in the prime real estate segment,” he said. “American buyers represent a significant portion of the prime real estate market. Beyond 4 million euros, foreign buyers represent up to 40% of transactions. “

Non-EU residents are limited to spending 90 out of 180 days in France, Ms Hodson said.

By law, French properties must be subject to asbestos, energy, lead and termite inspections, paid for by the seller and included in the sales contract. If the property has a swimming pool, a report on its safety features is also required, Mr Swannie said.

US buyers can borrow up to 80% of the purchase price for properties up to 700,000 euros ($ 840,000). Most mortgages require a minimum 30% down payment, Monclin said, and some US buyers are giving French mortgages to get lower interest rates, taxes and currency benefits. Taking out a mortgage takes two to three months.

French; euro (1 euro = $ 1.20)

The annual property taxes on this home are 5,000 euros ($ 6,000). Closing costs are 7-8% of the sale price, agents said, including stamp duty, land registration and the notary.

Patrick Poncet, Poncet & Poncet Christie’s International Real Estate, 011-33-466-20-27-62; poncet-poncet.com

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